For now, let's forget its technical specs and wonky features and strange wavy-sole, and cut to the chase: the new La Sportiva Electron makes a bold dash for the trail shoe sweet spot - the nexus of comfort, nimbleness, and durability.
So many trails shoes these days shine in just one, or maybe even two, of these areas but fall short in the grand triumverate. And it's something we all put up with, choosing shoes that fit our one or two chosen propensities but leave us quietly yearning to have at least one shoe in our quiver that feels like it does it all, and well.
The Electron - two years in the making, according to La Sportiva - does a good job filling this tough role, unifying a number of key trail shoe qualities.
It's not a minimalist shoe, to be sure, but it's got a modest heel-toe drop (11mm) and sits fairly low to the ground. And even though the heel is built up larger than in most low-profile shoes, it has a diagonal cutout at the rear, which helps promote a nice mid-foot strike.
It's not a beefed-up cushy road-type trail shoe, either, but its one piece, slip lasted upper is sock-like and extremely comfortable and form fitting. And its ride is very soft but also very nimble - this due largely to a decently low center of gravity and its new wavy, "MorphoDynamic" sole, which is the fixture of this new line of shoes, which also includes the Quantum.
One key frailty of the new sole that came up in testing was its performance on snow. On an inch of fresh spring snow, the shoes slipped fairly often on some pretty standard singletrack ascending and, especially, descending, something that rarely happens with my other good trail shoes. Given the smooth, wavy profile of the sole, this wasn't too surprising but is something worth noting if your spring and fall are marked by a good amount of snow, as they are here at the Run Junkie's Northern Rockies proving ground.
As for fit, the shoe is very comfortable with a good-sized toe box that fit this runner's wide forefoot, but the make-up of the upper should allow the shoe to conform to most foot shapes. Compared to last season's lines, the modest arch support of the Electron is placed slightly more toward the rear, and the shoe fits a half-size (Euro) larger than the Wildcat.
Its weight, at 337 grams, puts it a bit lighter than the Wildcat and a bit heavier than the new Crosslite 2.0, and more than a 100 grams beefier than the stripped-down New Balance MT101 (221 grams).
The Bottom Line
Minimalists will discount the Electron, and I guess they should; there are a number of other choices to better fulfill fantasies of running barefoot with locks a-flowin'. But for others looking for some great minimalist qualities wrapped in a shoe that would also be a pleasure to lace up and take out for 30, 50, or 100 hard, technical miles, the Electron is one to try - once the snow clears.
More Run Junkie shoe reviews.
(Test shoes supplied by La Sportiva.)